Ecological Economics Beyond Markets

Ecol Econ. 2020 Dec;178:106806. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106806. Epub 2020 Aug 11.


Non-market practices and institutions make up much of every economy. Even in today's most developed capitalist societies, people produce things that are not for sale and allocate them through sharing, gifts, and redistribution rather than buying and selling. This article is about why and how ecological economists should study these non-market economies. Historically, markets only emerge when states forcibly create them; community members do not tend to spontaneously start selling each other goods and services. Markets work well for coordinating complex industrial webs to satisfy individual tastes, but they are not appropriate for governing the production or distribution of entities that are non-rival, non-excludable, not produced for sale, essential need satisfiers, or culturally important. Moreover, we argue, markets do not serve justice, sustainability, efficiency, or value pluralism, the foundations of ecological economics. We sketch an agenda for research on economic practices and institutions without markets by posing nine broad questions about non-market food systems and exploring the evidence and theory around each. By ignoring and demeaning non-market economies, researchers contribute to creating markets' dominance over social life. Observing, analyzing, theorizing, supporting, promoting, creating, and envisioning non-market economies challenges market hegemony.

Keywords: Gift Economy; Institutions; Non-market Food Systems; Sharing; Social Constructivism.